Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lupa by Mario Batali (Hong Kong) - New Opening

 Lupa is not a fine dining restaurant,  this point needs to be stressed again and again as mentioned by my foodie friends.  Don’t come here expecting 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Review 1 or Review 2 or even Grissini’s standards.  Mario Batali’s fine dining haute cuisine restaurants are another business altogether.   Lupa is more of a casual Italian diner and probably serving food you’ll expect to find in an Osteria or a Trattoria.   Much simpler and rustic.    The food I ate over 2 visits  (pizza can only be ordered sitting outside in the Terrazza),  was still work in progress and surprisingly tasted better on the 1st visit,   but as a new opening you got to cut them some slack right?   May be they should give out some discounts too to play fair…  Open-mouthed smile




Ristorante side..  
Casual & laid back



Some Wines for tonight…
Wine bottles are decently priced here,  this bottle is only in the $300s.




Mineral Water -
The 1L bottles are under $50, 
which is acceptable. 




Lingua Beef Tongue – HKD $108
The one I ate on an earlier night was surprisingly much better than this.   It should have a good mixture of EVOO, Citrus Zest, Parsley & Fennel/Onion.   This one was missing the shaved fennel/onion and the zestiness…  too much lingua in proportion    ~   6.9/10




Bread - 
The bread offer is a little weak here,  as even other Dining Concepts restaurants such as BLT Steak or Bistecca have better breads!   It came with some decent but quite salty whipped butter and EVOO,  Balsamic.   




Pesciolini – $68
A funny name that reminds one of Nemo.  Fried whitebaits are done decently here, with a bit of burnt lemon and chili to liven it up a bit.  Thought it was too salty though…   ~   7/10



Arancine and Truffled Crema Fritta  (the latter is savoury not sweet)  - $68 + $88
The arancine had a really hard external crust and it was almost like it’s fried with rice flour rather than breadcrumbs, if u know what I mean.   The inside was bland and only carried very little cheese and no meat ragu, sauce or peas, which makes it more like a suppli and a bad one at that,  or even worst arancine. ~  2/10.     The Truffled Crema Fritte were much nicer,  this time the besciamella inside was set harder than the melty ones I got last time.  The external crumb coating was slightly too thick,  but already better than my last batch. Not much truffle taste though..  ~  7/10 



Fava, Guanciale and Ricotta Insalata -  $98
For some reason,  the majority of beans didn’t look like fava,  but some Chinese/Japanese edamame beans as others pointed out.   The guanciale was decent but not very smoky.  The castelfranco radicchio leaves were quite good and served warm.  Liked this dish.  ~   8/10



Grilled Radicchio with Scamorza – $98
The scamorza was gratinated very well,  the problem lied with the very bitter radicchio.  Yes I do understand radicchio has some bitterness by default even when raw,  but when grilled it was REALLY BITTER,  worst than Bitter Melon at its worst!    Personally I will never order this dish again..  But I like the concept in theory.   ~  N/A  



Sardines, Golden Raisins and Pinenuts – $98
This was another nice entrée,  and came with some fregola bed beneath.  The sardines were kind of lean but ok tasty,  and it worked harmoniously with the raisins and nuts.   ~  8/10


Testa,  Head Cheese made with Pork Head Meat -  $98
This was the 1st dish that we returned to the kitchen,  as it was shaved way too thin and I couldn’t even pick it up without breaking it.  There wasn’t much pork head or fat taste either,  even the colour was a bit too luncheon meat like.  ~  2/10




Spaghetti alla Carbonara -  $178
This was way tiny in portion,  and had very little egg yolk or Pecorino Romano cheese taste.  The guanciale weren’t fried enough to give it that aroma either,  in fact,  the guanciale in the fake fava salad above performed better.   Very disappointed in this as it was virtually tasteless.  Apparently this was much better tasting and also bigger on another night,  but tonight’s version failed by a large margin.   ~   3/10



Corzetti with Rabbit Ragu – $178
Undercooked way too much.
   This was hard and chalky white at the centre,  despite the unique shape of the flat pasta.  The Rabbit Ragu wasn’t exactly a ragu but it was slightly tougher and more like strands of meat which wasn’t slow cooked.  On the positive side they were seasoned decently.  ~  6/10



Garganelli with Oxtail Ragu – $198
A bit of a rip off considering the portion.  The oxtail wasn’t melt in your mouth nor rich enough,  it was more beef cheek like than oxtail and tasted mostly of tomatoes,  and not much wine or herbs flavours.   The garganelli were wider than usual.  I didn’t expect miracles from this simple peasant dish,  but I thought the seasoning was quite 1 dimensional.   ~   6.5/10


Crispy Duck with Salsify and Saba – $178
I didn’t know what Saba is but I know it’s not the mackerel fish,  it turned out to be a reduced & sweet grape juice.  The salsify were decently cooked and not oxidised in appearance at least.  The duck had an almost five spice like flavour but was cooked quite well and the skin crisp,  in fact,  it is hard to fathom why this costed EXACTLY the same as the Carbonara above.  This is very good value for money and on top of that one of the best dishes on the night!  MUST ORDER!  Though  very salty…   ~   7.5/10


Polenta with Pecorino di Grotta – $68
The cave aged sheep’s milk Pecorino is very gamey,  unlike the much sharper Pecorino Romano.  I like this type of cheese a lot but there is 1 problem!   The polenta bed was completely tasteless!   I have never had polenta that was so indiscernible in taste before,  and that strongish cheese spoiled the balance a bit.   This worked ok with the above Crispy duck though,  as this was under seasoned but the one above was too salty.   ~   5/10



Lupa Tartufo – $98
Apparently this Tartufo dessert is adapted from Tartufi as invented by the French,  which simply means truffle.   But in dessert context,   most versions as encountered these days taste like frozen semifreddo.   This version had a very strong hazelnut taste but not much chocolate nor too much cherries taste.   Also came a little too frozen hard and dense.  Needs time to melt to the ideal temperature.   I can wait ?  ~   6/10



A little too icy.  I have eaten much better Tartufo just bought from any Italian supermarket.
It’s missing some serious chocolate or fruity centre flavours. 





Outside Terrazza - 
You need to come here to order pizze (pizzas)..



Lingua -
This version was much better than the one above, 
simply due to a better balance of everything.  Good!




Truffle Crema Fritta -
This on the other hand,  had a much thicker crust.  Bad.
And probably too runny a crema centre.  Bad.
Yet a stronger truffle taste.  Good.  




Pizza Margherita – $158
This arrived looking smart, but the cornicone crust was baked too hard to chew and so was the bottom,  it was also quite floury.   It had a slightly yeasty whiff at the beginning but that eventually disappeared.   I am not sure what kind of Pizza style this is attempting to be -  but if it meant to be a Verace Napoletana style it is then too hard and the base should be more softer and floppy to be one.  Hard to say or judge ?!    The tomato paste was good but not as sweet as a San Marzano ‘canned’ tomato sauce,  if that sounds ironic at all.  Good spread of mozz and basil though.  ~   6/10




Quite comfortable sitting outside -
It’s like an oasis in the middle of a concrete city..




A bit dark for photo taking,  but cozy.
I am surprised I can’t see the face of another person sitting opposite me.   It was really that dark, and way darker than what my photos show …




Hi Mario!
And yes,  he was wearing his orange Crocs!   They have pretty good grip as he suddenly turned around and ran back up the escalator to say goodbye to someone and didn’t slip over! 





Price:  HKD $470 inside Ristorante,   HKD $280 at Terrazza
Ease of Access:   5/5 (1 min walk from Central MTR station exit)
Food:  Too green to rate yet.  Most find it not very impressive, but perhaps that’s not the point either?  It is not a fine dining restaurant by design, remember.

Opening Hours: 
Mon to Sun  12:00pm - 15:00pm, 18:00pm - 23:00pm
Address: 中環皇后大道中31號陸海通大廈3樓

3/F, LHT Tower, 31 Queen’s Road, Central
Ph:  2796 6500


  1. I went there last night with 5 other guests and was really disappointed... Venue and service were good, they food was way under the standard I was expecting !

  2. Ouch! Not good to hear and I think they need to do more QC'ing in the tasting department. At places like SPOON, each dish that comes out is tasted by the Chef first!

  3. Wow i've got a reservation for next week BTBH it looks a little like a cross between Polpo and Bocca di Lupo (here in London) . still excited to see if arancini are a hit here in HK. Great post! x

  4. Thanks! Yeh let's hope they will be good by the time you visit again! Apparently some other high profile chefs also visited here and were disappointed - but it's a competitive world out there. I can just say they need to do more taste testing sessions ! :0

  5. I was in a food prep class in NYC in 2003 with Batali for a entire week. Didn't know anything about food in those days and only recognized him on the last day. :)

    On a side note. Do you ever get negative comments because many of your posts are in the fine dining category?

  6. I went to Lupa for their launch party and got a small sample of their food but everything just tasted sooo salty! Not sure if you had that problem too but it's too bad their pasta was largely a disappointment. I was so excited when I first heard they were opening!

  7. Is smoking allowed at terraza?

  8. Kelly - I think Batali is quite talented in cooking but probably the HK shop needs more time to refine itself, knowing that their JV partner - Dining Concepts - aren't well known for having the best supporting chefs to back it up! Cecconi's is another example that springs to mind as the Australia shop is way better than the Hong Kong one, it's like they're totally different entities. As for fine dining category, you may find more down to earth ones under my Bang for Your Buck tab hopefuly :D I am a slow blogger unfortunately and post most of my cheaper meals on ! Thanks : )

    Charlotte - We had EXACTLY the same problem. Apart from the Carbonara everything was way too salty.

    Anonymous - Not sure about smoking, sorry about that!

  9. I went there twice, both for lunch, and found the food very good - quality/price. It is great place for a casual lunch with friends and/or colleagues. Thhey have a nice cold buffet which a variety of dishes (different on both times).
    I loved their pepperoni alla Piedmontese. The mushroom pizza was better (less cheese) the 2nd time.

    This small oasis might might need time to make it even better for dinners
    oh! ...and I like the vertical garden!

  10. I went for dinner with my wife on 6 August. The decor was modern, and the service was to standard. The food itself was very uneven. I took the servers recommendation for the Tonarelli with Crab and Fennel. Best way to describe it is limp ramen noodles. The dish had the consistency of paste, and almost no crab to be found. Suggest looking elsewhere if you like Italian food, especially at @ US $120 per person.



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